(New York, NY) – Following reports that Saudi Arabia hacked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone as retaliation for the Washington Post’s critical reporting, PEN America re-asserted its calls for investigations into human rights abuses against journalists and free speech advocates.

PEN America’s Summer Lopez, senior director of Free Expression Programs, said the following:

“That the crown prince thought he could control the Washington Post‘s reporting by blackmailing its owner reveals the depth of his inability to understand how independent journalism works. It does, however, demonstrate how easy it is for unaccountable autocrats to employ surveillance technologies to threaten and target their critics around the world.

“The world is already all too familiar with the gruesome tactics the Saudi government will employ to silence their critics, notably the violent murder of Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. As with that brutal act, these new revelations should serve as a wake-up call to the international community: The Saudi regime’s attacks on press freedom are not constrained by its borders. Still, the international community continues to give the Saudi government a free pass. When we embolden those who detain, torture, and murder writers, impunity reigns. It’s time to hold Mohammed bin Salman to account. We continue to call on the UN to initiate an independent investigation into Khashoggi’s killing, and we demand the U.S. take action to impose meaningful penalties on those ultimately responsible for the murder. 

“Meantime, if the Saudi government wants to repair its image, it could start by releasing the writers, journalists, and academics who remain in prison for making their voices heard, including PEN America’s 2019 Freedom to Write honorees Loujain Al-Hathloul and Nouf Abdulaziz.”


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 202 309 8892